Living in Athens Greece: What is it Really Like?

Living in Athens Greece sounds like a dream for so many people. Greece on the whole is a beautiful country that is rich in culture, history, and spectacular natural scenery.

So many people visit the country on their annual vacation every year, fall completely in love with it, and start researching how they can make the move there. But does the reality of living in Athens live up to the fantasy?

It can. But there are certainly a lot of things to keep in mind before you seriously consider making the move. The reality of traveling anywhere is a lot different from the experience of simply visiting on vacation. 

Living in Athens Greece: What to Expect 

living in Athens

If you are seriously considering making the move to Athens, the best thing to do is to base yourself in the city for several weeks/months initially and see how you feel about daily life. When you are on vacation, the city feels a lot different from when you are living somewhere permanently.

On vacation, you are probably staying in gorgeous hotels, spending your days checking out ruins like the Temple of Hephaestus and the Temple of Olympian Zeus and dining out in different restaurants every night. When you live in Athens, things change.

You become more aware of having to navigate the traffic-filled roads, the bureaucracy that comes with doing simple tasks in Greece, and the experience of doing mundane day-to-day activities such as grocery shopping. You may want to consider renting a short-term apartment in a residential area of the city to feel what it is really like to be a local.

It is also worth considering dividing your time so that you stay in different neighborhoods to get a feel for which part of town is the best suited for you. For instance, spend two weeks living in the leafy, sleepy Mets district and two weeks living in Zografou. 

The Pros of Living in Athens, Greece

living in Greece

The food and gastronomy in Greece are unparalleled 

Sampling various different Greek food dishes and Athenian street food eats is a highlight of any 2 or 3-day Athens itinerary. This remains a highlight of living in Athens even when you have been based in the Greek capital for an extended period of time.

Greek food goes way beyond just souvlaki, gyros, and moussaka. You can live in Athens for years and constantly be finding new favorite dishes and restaurants.

The cuisine in Greece varies from one part of the country to another too. For instance, some of the dishes that you will find on the island of Corfu (such as Corfiot beef sofrito) are not served in other parts of the country.

Fortunately, because Athens is such a gourmand, you can find regional fare from all over the country served here. The city is also home to six Michelin-starred restaurants.

For some of the best souvlaki in the country, head to O Kostas (Pentelis 5), To Pikantiko (Eftichidou 23), or Kalyvas Family Grill (Dimitrakopoulou 91-93, G Olymbiou 10). To sample incredible seafood and specialty dishes from the island of Lesvos, stop by Ouzeri Lesvos (Emmanouil Benaki 38).

If you are celebrating a special occasion and want to indulge in a tasting menu where you can try numerous small plates of Greek delicacies at once, head to Elias Gi in Kifissia. There is something for every taste, food preference, and budget here.

Athens also boasts an ever-expanding selection of restaurants serving various international cuisines. (For instance, Mexican Yucatecan food, Thai food, etc). 

The cost of living in Athens 

living in Athens Greece

The cost of living in Athens is generally much lower than the cost of living in most other European cities. Despite rising inflation plaguing much of Europe in 2022, living costs in Greece are still among the cheapest in the continent.

In fact, Eurostat, the European statistics office, stated that Greece is the only country in the EU where house prices have remained lower than their 2010 levels. In Athens you can rent a one-bedroom apartment for as little as €350-€400 a month, or a two-bedroom apartment for around €600-€650 a month.

On the whole, you could comfortably live in Athens for less than €1000 a month. In addition to your rental costs, you should expect to pay around €150 or so a month for additional bills. In other words, water, electricity, gas, internet, and building maintenance.

A groceries budget of around €200-250 a month is relatively reasonable for a single person. If you are two people sharing, you should expect to spend around €350-€400 a month.

This is a great aspect of living in Athens Greece because you do not need a lot to be able to enjoy a lifestyle that is equal to, or better than, the way you lived in your own country. If you earn a decent salary or run your own business, you may find that you are effortlessly saving hundreds (or possibly thousands!) of euros a month.

The affordability of living in Athens means that you have more disposable income, you can eat out or order food more often and you can indulge in treats such as going to the spa, etc. These are things that you may not have been willing to spend as much in your own country. 

Relocating to Greece is becoming easier 

living in Athens

Despite the fact that Brexit has made it a little more difficult for British citizens, moving to Greece is becoming easier on the whole. If you are hoping to relocate, there are several different immigration routes that you can go down.

The most suitable one for you depends a lot on your personal situation, your financial situation, whether you have any relatives or a spouse in Greece, and whether you intend on purchasing a property. The process is easiest of all for EU residents.

If you are moving to Greece from another EU country, you can enjoy the borderless freedom that comes with being from the EU. In other words, you can simply just up and move to Greece and then register with the police within 90 days of arrival. 

You have to fill in certain documentation with the police locally and demonstrate that you have sufficient savings and a source of income from outside, or that a Greek friend/relative is sponsoring your stay. If you are relocating from outside of the EU, things are a little more complex but far from impossible.

For instance, if you have €250,000 to invest in property, you can go down the Golden Visa route. If you are self-employed, you can apply for a Digital Nomad Visa.

The Greece Digital Nomad visa (4825/2021), was launched in the summer of 2021. It enables non-EU residents that earn a monthly income of at least €3,500 from sources outside of Greece, to move to the country for 12 months. You can extend the visa, provided you still meet the income requirements.

The weather is generally great all year round

Greece sees more than 250 days of sunshine a year! Although the temperatures in Athens can dip during the winter months, it never gets as cold here as it does in other parts of Europe.

Even in the winter months when it is chilly and you need to layer up with coats, cardigans, and scarves, the skies are a gorgeous shade of blue. This can be a great mood booster – Greek winters don’t mean dull grey skies or gloomy days.

Even in the middle of January, as long as you wrap up warm, you are good to go for an urban hike around the city, or a trek further afield out to Mount Parnassus, Kaisariani Monastery, or Imittou. If it does rain, showers are usually brief.

There will be a quick downpour and then the skies clear again. Athens is not dreary London after all! 

Greek festivals and events are wonderful to watch 

Many events and festivities take place throughout the year in Greece. These range from unique local celebrations, to occasions such as Christmas and Orthodox Easter that are also celebrated elsewhere in Europe.

You may be fortunate enough to catch some of these celebrations during a quick trip to Athens if your travel dates coincide. However, you never get to fully experience the magic of some of these festivities unless you live in Athens year-round and get to participate.

One of the most colorful festivals in the Greek calendar is Apokries (or carnival) which takes place every February and March each year. The name Apokries translates to mean ¨no more meat¨ and marks the start of the countdown to Orthodox Easter.

Most interestingly though, throughout this period, people host costume parties and themed parties and events where people dress up in every manner of weird and wonderful Halloween-style outfits, are hosted throughout Athens. One of the best places to catch an Apokries party is at the clubs of Gazi. 

Greek Independence Day (March 25th) is another notable annual event that marks Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. Oxi Day (October 28) marks the day that the Greeks said no (Oxi) to Mussolini and the Italians when they suggested that the Greeks step aside and let the Nazi army into the country.

On both of these occasions, fireworks, military parades, and large processions take place in Athens and all over the country. There is something going on virtually every month in Athens. You do not get such an in-depth glimpse into Greek culture unless you live here firsthand and experience it. 

The city is becoming more Digital Nomad friendly 

A few years ago, remote work was a completely foreign concept in Athens. There were little to no coworking spaces and if you spent long hours working on your laptop at a coffee place alone, you would be met with frowns and questions as to whether you were okay being there by yourself.

This has changed a lot in recent years. You will find a lot of social events geared towards remote workers, ex-pats, and Greeks that want to hang out with an international crowd. (In particular, you should search for these via Meetup, Couchsurfing, and in local Facebook groups).

If you work from home and you want to be in a social environment/change your scenery from staring at your living room wall, there are several great coworking places around the city. Hot desks start from around €170 a month.

Many coworking membership fees include unlimited coffee, tea, water, and snacks. Impact Hub, the Cube, and Regus Athens are places to add to your radar if this applies to you. 

Things to be aware of when living in Athens, Greece

If you live anywhere long enough, you are sure to find some negative aspects of being there. The cons of living in Athens Greece listed here are not bad things per se. Moreover, they are things that you need to be practical about and be aware of if you want to properly prepare yourself for the potential of relocating to the country. 

You need to have realistic expectations about finding work

A lot of people have the romantic idea of moving to Athens, setting up a little independent business, and living life like something out of a fairytale. Alternatively, they assume that they will simply be able to find the same type of job that they do at home, in Athens.

Unfortunately, this could not be farther from reality. The truth is that although things have improved a lot since the Greek financial crisis of 2007–2008, the Greek economy is definitely not one of the strongest in Europe.

The market for white-collar workers is very competitive. Very few large businesses and international corporations have offices in Greece.

There are plenty of well-educated, multilingual Greek people that hold degrees but cannot find work. As a foreigner who cannot speak Greek, this becomes even more challenging.

For the most part, you will need to be able to speak Greek if you want to find a job here. There may be a few large companies that want English-speaking staff (e.g. the call center Teleperformance), or you may find that some tourism businesses (hotels, tour companies, etc) are willing to hire you.

For the most part, though, these jobs are like gold dust. The same applies to people hoping to move to Athens and teach English.

Unfortunately the supply of people hoping to obtain an online TEFL and teach English far outweighs the demand. Most Greeks learn English from Greek teachers in their schools.

You can try contacting your country’s embassy or emailing some language academies in advance of leaving your own country. In general, though, the best option is to have your own business and source of income from outside of Greece.  

Managing taxes can be expensive and confusing 

Living in Athens Greece
Living in Athens Greece

Personal income taxes in Greece range between 9% and 44%. The amount that you pay varies depending on how much you earn.

If you spend more than 183 days in the country in any tax year, you are recognized as a Greek tax resident. Greek taxes are complicated and they are often higher than taxes in other countries.

Many countries have a double taxation agreement in place with Greece. This means that you pay taxes in one country or the other.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can pick and choose where to pay tax to. The country where you spend more than 183 days is usually your domicile.

The prerequisite to many new Greek entry visas is now the fact that you must be a tax resident of the country in exchange for the visa. Arguably this is why it is so worthwhile for the Greek government to allow people to locate the country more easily. I.e. they are receiving an additional source of income through taxes from higher-earning foreigners.

You absolutely need to consult an accountant or a tax consultant if you are relocating to Athens. Greek taxes are confusing, in part, because they typically need to be paid upfront in advance, and there are strict fines and penalties for making errors or documenting something incorrectly. 

Adapting to the quirks of a Mediterranean lifestyle 

Anafiotika Athens
Anafiotika Athens

You may find that there are several quirks and differences between living in Athens compared to living in your home country. For instance, Greeks tend to follow a Mediterranean schedule, meaning that they often eat lunch around 3 pm, and have dinner as late as 10 or 11 o’clock at night.

You will also note that many independently owned stores on Ermou street and around the city close for a few hours in the middle of the afternoon for siesta hours.  Chances are, that after a few months, you will become accustomed to this change of pace.

Final Thoughts

Is living in Athens something that you are considering? Does what is written in this article match up against what your assumptions and expectations about living in Athens would be like? I have been living in the little district of Pagrati, close to the Panathenaic Stadium since 2017.

Safe travels and best of luck on your Greek adventure! Geia sou! Melissa xo